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Digitalization and the transformation of work in China: its global conditions and implications

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Sep 14

Date and time: 14 September 2021, 15:00-16:00 CEST (UTC +2)
Speaker: Julie Chen, University of Toronto
Title: Digitalization and the transformation of work in China: its global conditions and implications

Meeting ID: 695 6088 7455
Password: 755440

Watch the recorded presentation here



Picture of Julie ChenAbstract: People outside of the formal employment institutions have been taking odd, temporary jobs to make ends meet in China from the pre-industrial society till the contemporary internet society. They have been described as “sangong” (literarily meaning odd jobs and causal worker simultaneously), migrant workers, and now platform or gig workers. Digital platform companies are the latest actors in moving jobs online or managing the digitally mediated workplace in the history of globalization and information capitalism. In this talk, using digital labor in China as a point of departure, Julie Chen will discuss the historical continuity and rupture in the material conditions and social relations for workers in China’s path from “the world’s factory” toward informatizing its economy. She argues that the intertwining and contentious forces of China’s domestic economic restructuring and uneven integration into the global digital capitalism, with various social actors involved, shape the transformation of work in the digital economy. The characteristics of digitalization of work in China have profound implications and significance for labor politics in the country and the world. The talk will end with a discussion on those implications.

Bio: Julie Yujie Chen is Assistant Professor at the Institute of Communication, Culture, Information, and Technology at the University of Toronto (Mississauga) and holds a graduate appointment at the Faculty of Information (St. George). Chen studies the transformation of work and subjectivity in relation to digital technologies, capitalism, and globalization. She is the co-author of Media and Management (University of Minnesota Press, 2021) and the lead author of Super-sticky WeChat and Chinese Society (Emerald, 2018) which is the first book-length research on the largest social media in China—namely, WeChat. She publishes widely on issues related to workers on the digital platforms in China in journals including New Media & Society, Socio-Economic Review, Javnost – The Public, Work, Employment and Society, Chinese Journal of Communication, China Perspectives, and Triple C. Currently, she is working on a project to examine how the ideologies and applications of artificial intelligence transform the organization of human labor in China. The project has received institutional support from Canada’s Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and Connaught New Researcher Award.
Link to the profile of Julie Chen